Saturday, September 12, 2015

Who's gonna help these women?

In California, they’re reducing the number of prisoners.  But it took a Federal Court order to get the ball rolling.  Is that what it’s going to take in Michigan?  Nothing else has worked so far.

Michigan’s terribly overcrowded prison for women has been a best-kept secret by government and corrections officials.  We’re going to do our part to change that.

All female state inmates are housed in one prison:  Women’s Huron Valley Facility, in Ypsilanti.  There are actually two facilities in one, and together they currently hold approximately 2,200 inmates, and corrections officials told me last week that the number is going up. 

The reasons why the women’s prison population is increasing are worthy of a story, but we’ll save that for another time.  For now, we want to discuss the many ways women’s rights are being violated by the state prison system due to this overcrowded situation.

Our office is being inundated by complaints from prisoners, and we’ve been in this business long enough to know that these aren’t the “whiney-complainey” type people who always have a bitch.  These are our friends---nice, common-sense people who are trying to make the best of their situation.

The American Friends Service Committee, a national Quaker organization, has a fine chapter here in Michigan.  After a lengthy investigation into this overcrowding business in Ypsilanti, the Michigan office last summer sent a strong four-page letter to the corrections department, state legislators, and even a copy to Governor Snyder.  I don’t know whether they ever received a reply, but I do know that the letter did no good.  Zilch! 

One year later, and reports are flooding into our office---

          -women have no place to sit
          -women have no room in their crowded cells
          -women have absolutely no privacy---ever
          -bunks moved into closets
          -bunks moved into TV rooms
          -bunks moved into activity rooms
          -some of these rooms have no windows
          -many of these rooms have poor circulation
          -some are infested with ants
          -some have leaky roofs
          -overcrowding problems make staff irritable
          -irritated staff members write more tickets
          -visitation by friends and family is affected.

In other words, it’s a living hell in there.  It’s to the women’s credit that they haven’t revolted, not that anyone would listen or care.

I’m in the process of preparing a front page for our October newsletter with actual quotes from prisoners and family members at Huron Valley.  I hope it gets widely distributed.  I pray that it gets some action.

It appears the new prison administration, our Governor and our state legislature have no plans to bring about change.  And if that is the case, perhaps it’s time to go to the courts.  I wonder which civil rights attorney would have the guts to start a class action suit for these deserving women? 

God’s children, created in his image, shamefully stacked like cord-wood in Pure Michigan.

It’s time for action.


1 comment:

Lona Jean Aldrich said...

thank you, I was released from WHV on 4/2/15 after 57 months. When I entered the prison we had approx. 1800 women and the CO's and Warden said we were at capacity, amazingly when I left we were at 2100 plus without building anything. Yes women are being put in closets, quiet tv rooms/day rooms are being closed and housing 12 women or more without desks, etc. The "go home" unit (6) is a disaster with 88 beds, except for the beds that can't be used because of ceilings leaks, and of course there are 6 or 8 mop buckets in that day room catching the leaks when it rains, etc etc... This doesn't even touch upon the unavailability of programming because of long wait lists, etc.